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These little rifles have always caught my eye in movies. So when I found myself wanting a small rifle to pack when scouting, or camping. I started looking for one of the little Winchesters. I figured it would make a fine pack rifle, but my local shops didn’t have one. They all sold the cheaper Ranger version. I found a Wrangler at a shop in another county, but I was never a fan of the large loop. I finally found one I liked in Lexington Kentucky a town a hundred plus miles from my hometown. It was a Trapper with the regular loop I liked in .45 Long Colt. The second I picked the Trapper up I knew I had to have one, but it wouldn’t be this one it was already sold. Someone had called and had them hold it for them. I checked back later in the evening, the person showed up to purchase the gun. When I returned home I went to my local shop, and had them order me one - something I had never done before- I decided since I was ordering the gun special I would pick the caliber that would me most practical for me. I went with one that fired the .357 Magnum cartridge. I picked this caliber because I have three pistols in this caliber already, and kept plenty of ammunition on hand. I thought this would be very practical because I intended to shoot this gun a great deal. Well I got a lot more than I bargained for with this little rifle.
When I first got my Trapper the finish, fit,and feel were just as I had expected. I really liked my rifle, but to my great disappointment shooting the gun showed that Winchester had left some bugs in my 94. The shell carrier would come in contact with the magazine release, and a shell would come out of the magazine,and block the loading port stopping me from reloading a shell into the magazine. The gun would shoot, but I didn’t want to shoot the gun empty before being able to put another round in the magazine. The gun wasn’t functioning properly. I contacted Winchester concerning the defect. Eventually they fixed this problem, but I had some other issues with the little rifle. I set out to improve my Trapper, and make it the scouting rifle I wanted. My first complaint. The accuracy. It was good, but I knew - having owned 94’s before that I could get better accuracy. So the first thing I decided to change was the rear sight. I decided to install a Williams peep sight. As I expected it improved the accuracy of the little rifle. Next I wanted to smooth the action of my Trapper. I started by removing the magazine spring, and cutting three loops of off of it to lighten the tension,and allow for easier loading of the magazine I also deburred the inside edges of the loading port to spare my pinky when I loaded the last round into the magazine. I then disassembled the action completely, and went piece by piece smoothing the action as I went.
This rifle is one of the unlucky versions with the ugly wart safety. I got rid of it next. You can read my article that details the removal, and covering of the holes left by the removal of the safety on the Internet. Next I turned my attention to the trigger mechanism, and the lower tang. I first removed the main spring, and cut three coils off of it then polished the area cut. This helps at the first of the down stroke making it easier to cock the hammer back. Do not cut more than three to four coils from the spring any more and the hammer might not hit with enough force to ignite the primer. I next took the main spring guide rod, deburred it, polished it on all sides to make for a slick ride for the main spring. Through the center of the hammer is a bushing. I removed this and polished it. Then I polished the sear on the bottom of the hammer. This is all that needed to be done to the trigger and hammer mechanism so I put it all back together. Oiled and greased it then set it aside to work on other parts of the gun.
I next checked the rest of the receiver I checked for any burrs on the inside of the receiver. I took the shell carrier out and checked it for any burrs,and polished all the parts that touched a little. I put everything back together, and test fired the gun. Smooth, and fully functioning. Having the gun working the way I wanted it I started searching for ammunition. I tried every load I could find. With surprising results.
I had wanted to use the same loads for my rifle that I used in my pistol, but after shooting the gun some I found this wouldn’t work. Many of the rounds I liked in my pistol didn’t hold up to the velocity generated by the rifles longer barrel. I had never used a rifle before that shot pistol calibers, so this was new to me. I would have to do my homework, and some testing to find a load that would work for my situation. I knew from the firing that I had already done that I would need a larger grain bullet of 158gr. and higher. I selected several factory loads, and set out to test them in my rifle.
I decided to test the factory ammunition separately one per trip to the range starting with a clean barrel every time. I also used a chronograph to see just what speed the ammunition was moving. My test showed four adequate choices.
The first round I took to the range was the Buffalo Bore 180gr. hard cast flat nose. I shot a box of these rounds through my rifle. The performance was impressive. I shot through several types of media and none of the bullets failed to give good penetration. The average velocity was 1798fps. Energy in the 1292ft.lbs. range. The average deviation was 13.25fps. with an extreme spread of 76fps. My calculations on the power factor scale came out at 325. Accuracy was good but not the best. This would be my first choice of factory ammunition for just flat out power, but second for accuracy.
My third choice would be the Winchester 180gr. Partition Gold hollow point. I fired a box of these through my rifle. This round was good, but not as good as the Buffalo bores, or Cor-Bon loads. I tested the load in different media and had a few failures of the jacket, but the core held. The average velocity was 1493fps. Energy in the 891ft.lbs. range, with an extreme spread of 65 ,and an average deviation of 14.71fps. A power factor on this one of 269. Accuracy was good.
My last factory load would be the Federal American Eagle 158gr. soft point. The accuracy on this round was really good at under an inch at 100 yards. The average velocity was 1721fps., an extreme spread of 34fps. the average deviation was 29fps.energy in the 1039ft.lbs range. I have questioned this last reading a great deal. The power factor comes out at 272. I like this round it does good in many of my pistols. The only reason I put this one as my last is that the bullet failed many times in the rifle.
I wish I could include all my test results I believe I have tested just about every factory load on the market. These are just the four best factory choices I have found to date.
Next I would turn my attention to loading my own ammunition. I did this because I have had many bullets fail. I decided I would have better control over the ammunition I was using if I reloaded my own - not to mention the fact that I could save money on premium ammunition. I set out to research the bullets and load recipes available to me. I tried several from every manual I had, and the one that I chose to use is a 158grain load from Lee. I use a 158gr. Nosler Hollow Point bullet over 14.7grains of 2400 powder( this is a reduced load I can take it up to 15grains in the rifle if needed), a Winchester small pistol primer, and a Federal or Remington case. Velocity is in the 1605fps. range on average, energy in the 904 ft. lbs. range, and a power factor of 253.59. I can use this in my pistols as well as my rifle, and achieve good accuracy in both. This is my general use load. I use it for most everything- including self defense, but for Deer, and larger beasts I would use the factory load by Buffalo Bore, or the one by Cor-Bon just to have a little extra punch. I have included pictures to show accuracy of my two main choices. The first one is of the 158 grain hand load showing three cold shots at three different targets, the other is of the Cor-Bon load.
I eventually achieved my goal- it just took me some time to arrive at the desired results. A rifle that I could pack just about anywhere, that used the same ammunition as my pistol, functioned smoothly, and was accurate. I am very pleased with my Trapper. It has become my favorite rifle. I use it more than any other gun. Scouting, self defense, hunting. I hope that I haven’t turned anyone away from the Trapper it is a good gun,and very functional. I wouldn’t trade what I have learned form this little rifle, and the tests it inspired for a million Marlins. I like Marlins, but I love this little Winchester Trapper.